Reference Number: 4405
Name: Cletus Hugo KILLIAN
Change Date: 20 FEB 2015
Birth: 04 MAR 1891 in Perryville, Perry County, Missouri, USA
Death: 07 OCT 1962 in Rochester, Monroe County, New York, USA
Burial: 12 OCT 1962 Mount Moriah Cemetery, Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri, USA
There had been Killians in the Perry County, Missouri, area for well over fifty years when Cletus was born and sometimes it must have seemed like the whole town was related for he always claimed to have 87 first cousins. As will be seen from family history herein his ancestors came from North Carolina and it is very probable that several families in the North Carolina area moved together to Missouri. Many family names are common to both areas.
Cletus was raised on a farm in a farming community by farm parents and most near relatives were farmers; his father had taught school for a while. Cletus probably never manifested any interest in a farming career. He completed high school in Perryville and started to college at Missouri University. While there he met and courted the girl who was to become his wife, Leota May Wray (who, incidentally is descended from an equally honorable and long line. She was of the Hawkins blood line with an ancestor in America by 1705; Manley, that may have been here longer; and Howden and Taylor blood from Ireland well before 1800). Leota was graduated in the class on 1913, having studied both English and math. They were not married until 19 February 1919. Cletus never graduated from college. It is rather politely said that World War I interrupted his schooling; but he was never in the service! The facts appear to be that he considered college a place to learn what he wanted to learn. He would not conform by attending classes of no interest to him. What he wanted to learn was first and foremost, "how to learn;" after that he concentrated on technical subjects.
His first job of significance was in the United States Patent Office in Washington, D.C., as an Examiner. It was after he was established there that he married Leota May Wray and brought her to Washington. During his time in Washington, he studied law. He spent many years as a patent attorney. By 1921 he was in Ilion, New York working for Remington Arms; later he moved to Brooklyn, NY.
In the mid-1920's he was getting ahead and invested in an apartment building. He lost all of his investment as a result of a fire. The great depression of the 1930's set in a few years later, and he never recovered from this loss. For a while his circumstances were so poor that he helped deliver morning newspapers; Leota May did housework.
As early as 1920, and possibly before, Cletus had begun to conceive a system which he called KALKULEX, and a spin off he called the Automatic Machinist. The prosecution, application and sale of these inventions became his hobby, occupation, dream and hope. His family gave him little encouragement. From our vantage point, looking backward, we can now see that he was among the earliest to conceive computers and was trying to implement them and convince others of their utility. At the time industry was not ready, and computers as we know them today were not practical until the advent of transistors and semi-conductors of the 1950's. Cletus had the idea and had designs for building such machines. But he was limited to the components then available and these made his computers expensive, bulky, mechanical monstrosities. His Automatic Machinist came closer to success but recognition and reward were always just out of sight. His dream was that he would found an industry that would provide jobs and an inheritance for his children. Son George states that several times he heard him say that he would not take one million dollars for his inventions. These circumstances, which made him appear a failure, broke his spirit and his heart.
For a few years during and after World War II he worked at the New York Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn as a physicist. His employment there was terminated over some disagreement with his supervisors.
According to his contemporaries, Cletus was always "different," even as a child. He was a non-conformist. Any attempt to reduce typical non-conformity to paper would make him out to be a little of a buffoon or perhaps a ne'er-do-well, or perhaps a little like "Father" in the popular story, "Life with Father."
There is no doubt that with respect to science, technical matters, and anything he considered worthy of attention, he was brilliant. His knowledge on any subject was astounding. He read technical books and the Encyclopedia Brittanica the way others read the daily newspaper. There is no doubt that he was a mental giant. His children remember him as a father who was neither strict nor lenient nor particularly affectionate. His children knew they were loved, but few games were played unless they taught a lesson.
Cletus had a stroke sometime around 1956. He recovered fairly well, but never fully. He drifted downhill and had a series of strokes. In 1959 he and his wife moved to Rochester, New York. He continued to deteriorate and lost his interest in books and papers; he sat and watched television without any care for the subject matter. He died a tired and burned out man. His final illness seems to have also included pneumonia and blood poisoning. He lived in the hospital for a week, seemingly conscience of the presence of his family, but uttering very few words. He died quietly on a Sunday evening and services in his memory were held in Rochester, New York.
Cletus left a lasting monument - his contribution to Killian family history and genealogy. While he had almost no recognition for this contribution during his lifetime, his genealogy work was started at least by the middle 1940's. He worked against hardships that would have defeated lesser researchers. He had learned how to study, how to learn, how to do research. He knew how to use library facilities. He had patience, memory, skill and devotion to a labor which bcame a labor of compelling love. Against great odds he traced his male line back to 1516.
In the late 1940's Cletus found that a fellow worker in North Carolina (J. Yates Killion) was doing extensive research on the Killian line and had written a history of the Killian family in North Carolina. The two men combined talents and continued work. The North Carolina group eventally decided to build and dedicate a monument in memory of the original American ancestor. In recognition of his interest and contribution to the Killian research, Cletus was asked to give the dedicatory address, which he did on Sunday, October 19, 1952. I have added an account of that address, as recorded by him and edited later by his son, George W. Killian, at the end of these remarks on his life.
Cletus dreamed of someday publishing a volume of Killian genealogy and history and wrote many letters and essays which could be excellent material for such a work. Unfortunately, his stroke cut several potentially useful years off his life and the work was never really started.
Cletus left many letters and undated notes in his small script, which is nearly undecipherable to anyone unfamiliar with his handwriting. His habit of using scraps of paper and making inserts longer than the original text compounded the difficulty of making sense of them. However, an examination of the papers quickly reveals that they contain an enormous amount of data which was obtained over a long period and they the work could probably not be duplicated by many men.
After his death, his son, George W. Killian, determined that his work should be preserved, added to, and published. One of his first problems was to try to arrange the papers in order and set aside duplicate material. Next he started to index names and relationships.
George has a strict word of caution concerning his father's materials: "While I have tried to be careful to exclude any statements which are of questionable authenticity, it must be understood that Cletus rarely identified his source of information. This is not the mark of a careful researcher - and yet I believe him to have been a careful and faithful researcher. I have checked a limited amount of the data and have not found any major error. The history of the Killians in Europe sounded a little artificial, but as will be seen in the notes relating to it, I checked far enough to ascertain that he was working with solid material. However, as one can tell from his style of writing, Cletus liked to embellish a story and I still suspect that some of the details of personality, appearance, interests and actions that he credited to some people are the product of a fertile imagination and yet based on at least some shred of evidence and logic."
Though unpublished, Cletus' work was disseminated throughout the branches of the Killian family. Many present holders of the information do not always know who originally provided the data. Cletus' work on the European Killians was of great interest to the families and was widely distributed by those to whom he sent it.
There is no doubt that Cletus H. Killian was a giant among men and an outstanding researcher in Killian genealogy. Without him much that we know about the Killian family might otherwise be lost, or undiscovered.
Father: James William KILLIAN b: 20 OCT 1858 in Perryville, Perry County, Missouri, USA
Mother: Mary Ann SCHINDLER b: 18 OCT 1865 in Perryville, Perry County, Missouri, USA
Leota May WRAY b: 15 NOV 1892 in Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Michigan, USA
19 FEB 1919
in Andrew County, Missouri
- George Weldon KILLIAN b: 12 AUG 1924 in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York, USA
- Jimmie Wray KILLIAN Ph. D.
- Ralph Homer KILLIAN b: 18 SEP 1922 in Ilion, Herkimer County, New York
- Living KILLIAN